Italian Bread

          Anyone who knows me knows I could live on bread, cheese, and potatoes!! I know they are not the best choices but I just can’t help it! I love making bread. There is nothing like watching it rise and the smell that drifts from the oven as it bakes. I think people get really nervous about making bread but it really is easy!!! It just takes a bit of time and I know not many people have “time” these days but for those of us that want to find time to make bread this is a great loaf! I only make it by hand, I don’t use a machine and it comes out great!
        One night we were having friends over for wing night and I wanted to make something to go along with the dozens of wings we were having! So I decided to make a Gorgonzola cheese bread. For the bread I needed a loaf of Italian bread and I had been wanting to make it for a while so it was the perfect time to try.
      I will warn you that it takes about four hours for the rising of this bread so if you are going to make it you need to know you will need to start it early.
This bread was perfect! Great crust, great inside, I just thought everything about it was great.

Italian Bread
Makes Two Large Loafs
5 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup fat free dry milk
2 1/2 cups of warm water
2 packages of dry yeast
In a bowl combine maple syrup, salt, dry milk, yeast and water. Stir until combined.
In a large bowl place 4 1/2 cups of flour and pour in the wet mixture.
Stir to mix.
Add oil.
Mix the batter for 8 min. with a wooden spoon. 
After 8 min. add a 1/2 cup of flour and mix.
The dough will be wet and a bit sticky. Pour 1/2 cup of flour onto the table and dump dough onto the work surface.
Knead with the push fold method for 10 min. The dough will be a bit sticky at first but as you knead fold in the flour on the table. If all the flour has been added and the dough is still sticking to your fingers add more flour. The dough should be tacky but not sticky.
When done kneading place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let the dough sit at room temperature for 2 hours. 
Punch down the dough and turn it over in the greased bowl and cover for another 30 min.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead shortly just enough to work out any bubbles.
Let the dough rest for 20 min.

You can shape the dough into any size or shape that you would like. I make mine into two long baguettes.

Cover the dough loosely with a towel.
Let rise for 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees 20 min. before baking.
Bake at 425 degrees for 40-50 min.